Shopify vs. Etsy: One, The Other or Both???


So you’re ready to launch your online store. Or maybe you have one but wondering if you should be on the other? Shopify vs. Etsy for your creative business. Which is better?

This article is going to dig into the pros and cons of having a Shopify store versus and Etsy shop so you can make a well-informed decision that makes the most sense for your creative business.

Spoiler alert: I actually have both. I’ll tell you why later.

So without further adieu, let’s get started…

First things first, you may think that Shopify and Etsy are in the same category. But if you look at them up close they’re actually not.

And while they serve the same purpose, a way for you to take money to sell your goods, they go about it differently. And this impacts your business in more ways than might be apparent at first glance.

Shopify vs. Etsy: What’s the Difference?

Shopify is an e-commerce platform that allows you to have an online store without the hassle of building a store from scratch, code-wise. They also provide merchant processing so that you can take payments online.

Back in the day, you used to have to go through a bank and establish expensive merchant processing accounts. Small players couldn’t get into the game because of the high fees and qualifying hurdles banks had in place to weed out the small fries.

Your Shopify store comes with templates (both free and paid) that you can customize the look of your store with. So once you register for an account and pick a theme, you’re practically halfway to having a full-fledged shop.

Your store is dedicated to the items you offer and is yours alone. It will live on your own custom domain that you register through a domain provider.

In contrast, Etsy is an online marketplace. You can also set up shop on this platform. However, your items will exist right alongside thousands of other sellers that offer the same, or similar items as yours.

Your shop, or little section of the Etsy ecosphere, will have the same format as all of the other shops on Etsy. The only real way that your shop will be set apart design-wise is the design of your Etsy banner and the style of your product photography.

On Etsy, your shop will have an Etsy url, as opposed to your own domain. So every time you promote your shop, you will be promoting Etsy as well.

If someone is browsing Etsy and they land on your shop, it will be obvious that they are still on Etsy – not a stand alone website.

So you might be tempted to immediately conclude that Shopify is the way to go. Especially in terms of building up your brand.

But not so fast…

First ask yourself why you’re creating an online shop? What kind of online seller do you want to be?

– A happy hobbyist?

– A handmade business?

– A creative entrepreneur?

– A licensor?

– Or simply have a way to take online orders from the folks who ask to buy when you post your latest creation in your favorite Facebook group?

There’s all different reasons for wanting to sell online and where you fall will help you decide which platform makes more sense for you.

You also have to consider your level of tech savvy too. Are you a DIYer determined to figure everything out? Or do you struggle with the tech and just want to #makeallthethings

With Shopify, there will be more tech involved than simply uploading your product photos. The flexibility and autonomy that comes with building your own shop also brings on more responsibility.

You are responsible for creating the look and feel of your online store. If it looks hideous and scares buyers away, it’s all on you. Or if you’re missing key trust signals that make people question the legitimacy of your store, you may never get a sale.

The other consideration is what you’re planning to sell. Since you’re here, I’m going to take a guess that you have a handmade, artisan or otherwise creative business. Which fits right in with Etsy’s mission and purpose so you’ll fit right in too. People who go to Etsy to shop are looking for something unique, handmade or quirky.

On Shopify you can sell whatever you want, as long as it’s legal of course.

Which one is easier: Shopify or Etsy?

I’m going to say that Etsy is easier, simply because there are less buttons to push and levers to pull, so to speak, because they have a templated formula for uploading your product listings. Beyond that, all you’re really doing is uploading text for your shop policies and some graphics and images to your headline banner and About Us section.

There’s really not a whole lot to customize. Once you get the hang of creating your product listings (still rather tedious in my opinion) the learning curve is all but mastered.

Now with Shopify, there’s way more buttons and levers to be pulled. And while their templates are very user-friendly, it will still take you more time to completely build out your Shopify store versus an Etsy shop. With that being said, it’s still possible to get it done in an afternoon though. Plus, there’s tons of Shopify tutorials on YouTube that will walk you step-by-step through the setup process.

The Elephant in the Room: Getting Traffic

While both platforms provide a great way to take orders for your shop, the question still remains…how will you get traffic (a.k.a. shoppers) to your store?

With Etsy, you have a little bit of a boost. Because of it’s marketplace, you’re likely to see visitors to your shop organically based on the simple fact that you’re there plus the keywords you use to describe and list your products with.

But don’t count on this organic traffic to make your store explode with sales. You can’t just list a product and then sit back and wait for sales to start rolling in. Traffic and conversion (to sales) are two completely different things.

With Shopify, you are totally responsible for getting your own traffic. There is no community to be a part of, no help from Shopify. It’s all on your shoulders.

So if you don’t already have some sort of plan to get consistent targeted traffic to your Shopify store, you’re going to feel the sting of those monthly fees around month three.

My suggestion is to think through your traffic-getting plan and have a plan of action when you sign up for Shopify. They do have a 14-day trial and you want to use that time to set up your store. You can totally set up your store in one afternoon to one day’s time and then immediately start promoting it to get visitors and your first few sales.

When you have sales to offset the costs of your store fees, the sting doesn’t hurt as bad. Know what I mean?

Shopify vs Etsy Pricing Model: Which One Has Less Fees

Who has better pricing? I kind of liken it to when you buy a car versus leasing a car. You’re going to have to pay the tax either way (ugh), it’s just a matter of when you pay it (up front when buying vs. at the end when leasing).

So take a look at how much you’re selling each month. If you don’t have any historical data to go on then take a look at your budget. Do you have some budget that can be utilized for startup costs and the cost of doing business? If so, then Shopify’s monthly fee won’t be so painful when you’re starting and getting your traffic methods established.

But if you’re not selling much, and hardcore bootstrapping every step of the way, then you have to save every resource and Etsy may be the way to go.

Long story short…Shopify will be more expensive upfront. This is because you’ll pay a monthly subscription for your Shopify store. No matter if you sell one celestial bar necklace or one thousand. However, Etsy can be more expensive in the long run because of their transaction fees.

Shopify Selling Fees

I won’t get too into the weeds here with the differences between Etsy and Shopify’s fees, simply because these types of things always change and can quickly outdate a video or blog post. Just know that the fundamental difference between the two is that Shopify is a monthly fee (plus extras) and Etsy uses a fee per unit model with minimal extras.

From personal experience working on both platforms I will tell you that the one thing I personally don’t like about Shopify is that the monthly fee you see is not what you ultimately pay.

In addition to your monthly fee, there will also be charges based on the apps you add to enhance your site functionality. Some are essential to a competitive e-commerce shop so you have to have them.

Pius, they charge you for the shipping you buy through the platform. Which at first glance makes sense, and buying the shipping labels straight from the order is super convenient, but the way they do it sucks. They release your store sales to you the next business day or so…yay! BUT, in about a week or two they take this huge deduction called shipping fees.

Why not just deduct the shipping from the money you transfer to my account in the first place? Why give it to me only to take it back?!? That’s sooo annoying and messes up my accounting. You never know what that total bill will be and with the volatility of a small business you better hope and pray that the money is sitting there in your account when they go to grab it. Otherwise you’re hit with an unexpected overdraft fee from your bank. Can we say #stressful?

Anywho, these are the plans currently available on Shopify:

  • Basic – $29/mo
  • Shopify – $79/mo
  • Advanced Shopify – $299/mo

$299/mo is a heck of a lot for a solopreneur just for the prestige of having a standalone website up, especially if it’s a new website and you can’t predict how much revenue you’ll be bringing in each month.

You could use your monies better elsewhere. Once you get your traffic sources locked in and can predict monthly sales volume, the analytics and overall benefits provided by the advanced plan start to make more sense.

Etsy Selling Fees

With Etsy, you don’t pay a monthly or subscription fee. Instead you pay fees based on each listing you add:

  • Listing fee: $0.20 per item to be listed for 4 months
  • Transaction fee: 3.5% on every purchase
  • Payment Processing: 3% + $0.25 on every purchase

If you use Shopify Payments (their payment gateway), there are no transaction fees. However, if you use another payment gateway, you will be charged 2%, 1% or 0.5% for each plan respectively. You also still have to pay the credit card rates.

For example, let’s say you’re planning on using Shopify’s payment gateway and are on the Shopify plan. This means you’ll pay $79 a month, no transaction fees, and credit card rates.

Now let’s compare that to Etsy…if you sell $2,260 worth of stuff — at a 3.5% transaction fee, you’d be paying $79/mth plus $0.20 for each item listed and payment processing fees.

In other words, if you plan on selling more than $2,260 of stuff a month, Etsy is actually more expensive than Shopify.

Shopify or Etsy: Exposure vs. Brand Building?

It’s hard to build up your brand recognition, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Unless you have a strong social media following or some other way that people are discovering and falling in love with your brand on a consistent basis, this will be a long road to tow. For that reason, Etsy gives an obvious boost in getting some eyeballs on your stuff.

Etsy had  39.4 millions active buyers and sales over $3.93 billion in 2018 alone.

So, if your brand is brand new (pun intended), then you might need the built-in exposure Etsy can offer.The downside, of course, is that your products will be showcased alongside thousands of other brands that offer the same or similar stuff.

It’s like your essentially saying, ‘buy my stuff’…or maybe buy their stuff instead….here’s so many other options you can choose from besides my stuff…here have a look at this one…

Whereas on Shopify, you have the ability to keep your shopper laser focused on your products and your products alone. Without the distractions of other seller’s items. And we all know how easily a shopper can get distracted so the less options you present them with, the easier it will be for them to make a buying decision. Plus, because you can design your Shopify, it’s the perfect vehicle for you to build a brand look that’s unique to you.

From a branding perspective, customers see the difference as “this is Kayla’s Etsy shop” vs. “this is Kayla’s website.” And the question you have to ask yourself is…do you want them to remember you or Etsy?

If your plan is to grow your business, as opposed to maintaining a hobby, you’ll need a unique and solid brand. And that is not impossible on Etsy but it’s much, much harder.

Shopify vs Etsy: Which Should You Choose? Just Tell Me Already…

So with all that being said, do you now have a better idea of which platform you want to sell on?

Hmm…If you’re still stumped, here’s a quick idea of what type of seller is best suited to which platform.

The Etsy Seller: You make handcrafted, artisinal goods or love sourcing and reselling vintage finds. You may also sell large craft supplies in bulk or have really quirky, one-of-a-kind items. You’re not a tech head but can find your way around the computer. You’re a solopreneur or hobbyist and want to start selling your items without a lot of financial investment. You’re not sure how to drive traffic to your store yet, but plan to learn marketing along the way. If this sounds like you, then Etsy would be a good place to get started.

The Shopify Seller: You want full control over the look and feel of your brand and have some resources to make that happen. You understand that just creating the store is not enough to get sales though. And you’re ready to take on the task of learning to drive traffic to your store or you already have an audience or following that you can direct to your new store. If this is the case, Shopify is a good place to get started.

Now truth be told, a lot of sellers have a presence on both the Etsy marketplace and their own store. Why? Well, a marketplace like Etsy is a passive way to expose your brand to a large audience that you wouldn’t otherwise access on your own.

The downside is that marketplaces like this tend to be overcrowded and the buyers are price sensitive. You also lose control over the total look and feel of your brand, like we mentioned before. The upside is that customers are familiar with the design of the site and don’t have to “learn” your website. That’s one less hurdle to climb when deciding to make a purchase. And every second counts when it comes to converting shoppers to buyers.

It’s also general best practice to claim your intellectual properties (i.e. brand name) across all social medias and major platforms regardless if you decide to actively use them. When I first created my Etsy store, I had no intention of focusing my sales efforts there. I claimed it for SEO purposes and just so no one else could come along and claim it later and just let it sit for years.

So there you have it, Etsy vs. Shopify. I hope this overview has been helpful. Drop a comment below and let me know which platform you’re leaning towards and why. If you’ve already picked a platform, which one are you on? Drop a link to your store so that we can check it out and support each other.

If you’d like to get a copy of my essential apps list that make a Shopify store complete and ready for everyday sales without the overwhelm, click here to grab your copy.

Let’s let’s talk about it in the comments below and until next time…


Happy Selling!

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